(OVERALL): Low-income rural communities experience significant cancer health disparities, including lower screening rates, increased incidence, and later stage at detection, poorer survival, and higher mortality. The Southern Illinois University School of Medicine (SIUSM) and its Simmons Cancer Institute serve much of the central rural, southern rural, and Delta regions of Illinois. These rural communities have higher poverty rates and are medically underserved with disparately high cancer burden. SIUSM has established a partnership with the NCI-designated Siteman Cancer Center (SCC) at Washington University in Saint Louis (WUSTL), and SCC's Prevention and Control Program, entitled, Addressing Rural Cancer Health Disparities: An SCC-SIUSM PARTNERSHIP. To prepare for this application, we initiated planning activities in summer 2013. These collaborative planning activities included shared discussions, bi-monthly executive conference calls, in-person meetings at both sites, and early collaborative research efforts between SCC and SIUSM investigators. An Internal Advisory Committee comprised of representatives from each institution and key stakeholders from the region was formed and active in planning this application. The partnership goals are to: 1) build SIUSM cancer research capacity and support SIUSM faculty in transitioning to NIH-funded cancer disparities research, 2) provide opportunities for mid- and senior-level investigators to engage in cross- institutional cancer research and increase the rural cancer research scope and capacity at SCC, and 3) foster the development of post- doctoral scholars and junior faculty at both institutions to develop independent researchers in cancer disparities research. We will use three strategies to achieve these goals: First, a newly developed Pilot Research Program now allows junior investigators to gain research seed funding, collaborative experience and preliminary data for future NIH grants. This growing program prompted by this NCI PAR has already funded one on-going collaborative pilot, and another pilot is included in this application. Second, SCC will provide SIUSM faculty and trainees with access to research seminars and other training opportunities at SCC, and offer short-term investigator exchange programs. Third, building on career development activities ongoing at SCC, the two institutions will share strategies for faculty early career development. In particular, WUSTL's Division of Public Health Sciences offers a 10-month Master's degree in Population Health Science. We will identify clinician-scientists at SIUSM who want to build these research skills through coursework. We envision that these training activities may grow into an R25E or T32 application for rural cancer disparities research. Building on and leveraging the world-class cancer research and training programs at SCC and its Division of Public Health Science, and the rurally-focused mission of SIUSM and its commitment to develop population health science research, this Partnership will provide an important avenue for training and supporting a cadre of basic, clinical and population-based scientists at SIUSM with a focus on alleviating rural cancer disparities.

Public Health Relevance

(Overall) The overall goal is to establish a highly integrated research and training collaboration focused on rural cancer health disparities between Southern Illinois University School of Medicine (SIUSM), an institution that serves the population of Downstate Illinois, a largely rural and socioeconomically disadvantaged region with significant cancer health disparities, and the Siteman Cancer Center at Washington University in St. Louis (SCC- WUSTL), an NCI-designated Cancer Center. The Partnership will build SIUSM's research capacity and success conducting NIH-funded cancer disparity research, while also enhancing SCC's rural cancer awareness, research and reach. By doing so, the Partnership will contribute to reducing the cancer health disparities that persist in rural populations.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Exploratory Grants (P20)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZCA1)
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Mcneil Ford, Nicole
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Washington University
Schools of Medicine
Saint Louis
United States
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Pathak, Swati; George, Nerissa; Monti, Denise et al. (2018) Evaluating Adaptation of a Cancer Clinical Trial Decision Aid for Rural Cancer Patients: A Mixed-Methods Approach. J Cancer Educ :
Zahnd, Whitney E; Jenkins, Wiley D; James, Aimee S et al. (2018) Utility and Generalizability of Multistate, Population-Based Cancer Registry Data for Rural Cancer Surveillance Research in the United States. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 27:1252-1260
Zahnd, Whitney E; James, Aimee S; Jenkins, Wiley D et al. (2018) Rural-Urban Differences in Cancer Incidence and Trends in the United States. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 27:1265-1274